Todd and Amy Garelick are about as involved in Tucson soccer as you can get. Even before agreeing to head up the TSAFC women’s soccer team, they were already involved in a variety of soccer programs at a variety of levels.
The husband and wife duo coach Tucson Soccer Academy (TSA) travel teams, and all three of their children play for the organization. Todd is the athletic director at Mountain View High School, while Amy is an assistant soccer coach for the Mountain Lions’ varsity girls team.
Last January, the Women’s Premier Soccer League (WPSL) approached TSA about creating a Tucson team to compete in the league and they launched Tucson Soccer Academy Football Club (TSAFC). The WPSL is an independent national league, which focuses on the development of highly-competitive premier women’s soccer teams.
There are more than 70 teams participating from all over the U.S. The league is made up of a combination of semi-pro and strictly amateur teams and most of the players are post-college, foreign or current college players, though a few high school players compete.
The league is similar to pro-am basketball leagues that see a few pro athletes compete with current college players.
“TSAFC is an extension of Tucson Soccer Academy for our older, more competitive kids,” Amy said. “Mainly have graduated from high school and are playing in college or even post-college who still want to play.”
Although most teams get full year to prepare for a WPSL schedule, the executive board of the TSA decided to push ahead and compete right away. Once that decision was made, things progressed quickly.
“Amy and I looked at them and said we have to find a coach and they said ‘we are only going to do it if you two do it,’” Todd said. “We said we are not going to coach this team, we don’t have the ability to do it, there is no time for it, but here we are coaching it. That is how we got going, they just needed us to do it.”
The Garelick’s were not sure how many women would want to dedicate so much time to the team, but their first tryout had more players than expected and over the next few weeks, word of mouth increased participation.
Getting several University of Arizona players and future college players to commit to the team helped a lot, as did the Garelicks’ contacts with their former club players.
All but four of the players on the 32-player roster were either from Tucson or had Southern Arizona ties. The team had players from Mountain View, Ironwood Ridge, Canyon Del Oro and Catalina Foothills high schools.
“We are a local-based team, a place for all of these girls to play,” Amy said.
The team was not only able to field a competitive team, but actually won their division and qualified for the playoffs.
“The season at TSAFC went awesome, to be honest,” said former Mountain View standout and current Vanguard University All-American Jordan Davidson. “For being a first-year program and making it as far as we did it was a huge accomplishment. I think it’s going to be hard to match what we did last year. Tucson has had such awesome players and we always get overlooked by Phoenix players so it was cool to show up and represent for Tucson and show the true talent that is there.”
The team will undergo an overhaul this year. NCAA rules prohibit more than five players from any one college to play on the same team, which means a few players off of last year’s team had to move on.
Last year, they had several Wildcats and three incoming freshmen who were eligible to play with their future teammates until they began classes. A few players, like Davidson, are graduating college and could not commit to play again, but hope to return if they remain in Tucson post-graduation.
One of the goals of TSAFC is not just the 32 players on the roster, but to give elite soccer players a way to stay in shape over the summer. At times, upwards of 50 players would work out with the team, creating a competitive atmosphere.
A former collegiate player at New Mexico, Amy knows how tough the summers can be when it’s only up to the athlete to stay in shape.
“When you have 25, 30, 40 other players that are training too, that makes it so much easier,” Amy said. “That’s one of the big things too, having a place for these girls to play so they can stay game fit. Come into their preseason game fit, ready to play, have been touching a ball and have been playing competitively all summer.”
The team will also add a youth academy for 14 to 18-year-old athletes, who will train before the older team, but get to interact with the TSAFC players.
“They will see the work ethic,” Amy said. They train like no one else.”
Todd felt the team inadvertently created is a great mentoring program, as well as a future incentive for younger players.
“The leadership, the work ethic of the older players is unbelievable, better than I have ever seen in my life,” Todd explained. “For the younger kids to see that and be around that motivated them and inspired them.”
The team also hopes to motivate younger girls who are just starting to get into the sport. With Major League Soccer spring training occurring in Tucson, and the World Cup going on this summer, more and more local girls are being exposed to the sport and TSAFC hopes to help bolster that interest.
“I think having TSAFC is absolutely wonderful for girls here in Tucson,” said Kelly Kearns, who was the oldest player on the team and a mother of three, said, “It gives them the opportunity to come out and watch the women’s game at a high level. What’s even better is this team is made up of girls from the Tucson area. Hopefully we can be their role models or at least a female athlete they can look up to.”
The team will play a 12-game regular season slate, with six games being played at the Kino Sports Complex. Four of those six games will be double headers with the FC Tucson men’s pro team. The Garelicks could not praise the help of FC Tucson in getting the team off the ground in just a few months and creating one of the best home venues in the league.
The double headers also bring more fans into the stands, giving TSAFC a unique home advantage. They have had more than 1,000 fans out for some of their games.
TSA FC opens play on the road on Saturday, May 17 against Legends FC. Their first home game is May 31 against LA Premier FC.